George Soros’ original surname is Schwartz, a Jewish version of a German surname that means black. Growing up in an anti-semitic environment during the 1930s and ‘40s in Hungary, Soros’ father wisely chose to change the family name to Soros. Unfortunately for many of Soros’ extended family, including aunts and uncles, merely a change of name was insufficient to prevent suffering the wrath of the Nazi war machine. Many of Soros’ relatives ultimately perished in Nazi death camps.
This experience help to instill a sense of civic duty in the young Soros, who went on to dedicate a good deal of his early life to the study of philosophy, particularly, the role the government plays in maintaining open and free societies.
But it also may have played a crucial role in the development of Soros’ sense of drive, a feature of his personality that has served him well. With a famous work ethic, Soros has become one of the most formidable and respected investors in the history of the financial markets. Over a period of more than 45 years, Soros’ hedge funds have returned a cumulative 25 percent per year. This places him squarely at the absolute top of all investors throughout history.
But George Soros has also proved equally formidable in the area of philanthropy. He has been single-handedly responsible for toppling entire governments and for changing many European nations from closed and restrictive societies to open and freedom-loving ones. He has also waded into the U.S. political arena, donating over $50 million to presidential elections over the last decade and participating at the local level and many races for sheriff, prosecutor and judges.
George Soros established the Open Society Foundations. His Open Societies Foundations have, in total, doled out over $15 billion in philanthropic donations, perhaps making Soros one of the most prolific donors to charitable causes in recent history.
But given the political nature of all this philanthropic activity, Soros is not without his enemies. If success breeds jealousy, Soros has generated plenty of it. And nowhere is this more evident than in his political activities.
Throughout most of his philanthropic history, Soros has enjoyed a tremendous level of success, almost always accomplishing the goals he has set out to achieve. This has been true with everything from his intervention in eastern European countries, with efforts to create more transparent, open a democratic societies there, to his efforts within the United States to replace hardline conservative prosecutors with more progressive-minded and newer candidates.
All this adds up to a great victory or a terrible defeat depending on the viewer’s frame of reference. But one thing is not contestable. When Soros sets out to do something, he almost always gets his way. The good news is that most of his efforts have gone towards goals that can reasonably be described as creating an overall public good.
Whatever one’s viewpoint, this leads to an inevitable conclusion. Regarding the man whose father changed the family name from Schwartz to Soros, the lesson seems to be always to bet on black. Learn more on discoverthenetworks.org about George Soros.